Water is a strategic factor for development. It is linked to all productive activities and its importance for life makes it a determining resource for the population’s quality of life. It is vital to contribute to the protection of freshwater sources in Latin America and the Caribbean to secure our future.

Country: Colombia

Start Date: August 2017

City: Santa Marta

Water basins: The rivers Piedras, Manzanares, Gaira, Córdoba and Toribio, which supply water to the coastal cities of Santa Marta and Ciénaga, rise in the San Lorenzo water basin located in the Sierra Nevada.


Historically and geographically Santa Marta and Ciénaga have been articulated. They share a strategic location between the Sierra Nevada and the Caribbean Sea. This confluence condition has formed an intangible environmental, social and cultural heritage and an economic advantage from a strategic point of view.

However, Santa Marta and Ciénaga face several challenges related to water management. The rivers Piedras, Manzanares, Gaira, Córdoba and Toribio, which supply water to the coastal cities of Santa Marta and Ciénaga, rise in the San Lorenzo water basin located in the Sierra Nevada. 85% of the ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada have been altered because of deforestation processes associated with the expansion of the agricultural frontier, urbanization and illicit crops, which have led to a reduction in the capacity for water regulation and have increased the vulnerability of water collection and supply system, which has also caused problems to maintain its operation and to guarantee the supply of drinking water on a permanent basis.

During rainless seasons, surface water is insufficient to supply demand, affecting about 60% of Santa Marta natives. IDEAM’s National Water Study in 2014 cataloged Santa Marta with a high water-supply vulnerability index because of the fragility degree of basins to maintain its supply in average hydrological conditions due to variations in the climate.

Santa Marta and Ciénaga Water Fund

In order to address the challenges of water security, several public and private institutions and non-profit organizations such as Santa Marta City Hall, Ciénaga City Hall, Magdalena Government, Magdalena Regional Autonomous Corporation, Julio Mario Santo Domingo Foundation, Santa Marta Vital, After the Pearl of America (“Tras la Perla de América”), the PROSIERRA Foundation, the PRODECO Group, the Ecolsierra Network and the Latin American Alliance of Water Funds (made up of the Inter-American Development Bank – BID-, FEMSA Foundation, GEF and The Nature Conservancy – TNC), have joined efforts to create a Water Fund.


The objective of the Water Fund is to contribute in strengthening the integrated management of basins and the governance of water resources from the San Lorenzo Water Basin through the creation of a public-private mechanism that unites efforts of relevant stakeholders’ water basins to work with a common vision focused on water security, and to finance long-term conservation actions that will help ensure water for the inhabitants.


Through conservation actions in the prioritized basins, the Water Fund will benefit the populations of Santa Marta and Ciénaga: approximately 1,250,000 inhabitants that are supplied with water from these basins.


The Water Fund will have a strategic plan that defines short, medium and long term goals. It includes the implementation of conservation and restoration projects, economic alternatives and sustainable production, education and awareness-raising programs with local communities, as well as monitoring and evaluation activities to measure the impact of the Water Fund.

The available resources for starting activities are approximately USD 1.6 million. The total cost of implementing the strategic plan is approximately USD 14 million in 20 years, after which it is expected to comply with the following results:

  • 9,000 hectares, or » 22,239 acres, intervened (10% of the total basin area).
  • 200,000 tons/year of sediment will be reduced thanks to the conservation and restoration actions implemented.
  • 30 million m3/year of water will be contributed to water basins, thanks to green infrastructure activities that regulate flows and reduce sediment.
  • 20,000 hectares, or » 49,421 acres, of natural ecosystems preserved or restored.

This Fund was created in June 2011 by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to promote water security in the region through the creation and strengthening of Water Funds.